retail sales

Retail sales stabilize!

A couple of weeks ago I speculated that the US consumer may be coming back from the grave.

Today, Bloomberg reports that:

Sales at U.S. retailers in February fell less than forecast and January’s gain was almost double the previous estimate, indicating the biggest part of the economy may be starting to stabilize.

Purchases decreased by 0.1 percent, led by the slump in demand for cars, following a revised 1.8 percent jump in January, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Excluding automobiles, sales unexpectedly climbed 0.7 percent.

Please note that gasoline sales, which continued to (cough, cough) tank, are a significant part of even the -0.1% decline.

Retail sales post worst decline in history

The Census Bureau reported this morning that retail sales fell ~10% in real terms from one year ago. This is the worst decline in the history of this series.

Even leaving out gasoline sales (which artificially inflated sales earlier in 2008, and were down 36% on an annual basis, retail sales still fell ~6.5% YoY in real, inflation-adjusted terms.

Black Friday Shopping Data

Amazing but true, Black Friday hauled in 3% more than last year.

Americans spent $10.6 Billion dollars in one single day, shoppin'.

Last year it was $10.3 billion.

My only guess is that credit cards are still not at their limits.

Amazing isn't it? The economy on the skids and in one single day $10.6 billion dollars is spent.

Consumers decide Bush was wrong about panic, too

In the more hopeful of my two scenarios for 2009, the September retail rout turns out to be a one-month event, driven in large part by Bush's awful "Panic NOW!!!" speech in support of the Wall Street bailout. I speculated that consumers might decide Bush was as wrong about economic Armaggeddon as he has been about everything else.

And in that regard, Shoppertrak reports that

Yearly NRSE sales increased 1.1 percent for the week ending October 18 as compared to the same week in 2007, while week-over-week sales posted a reasonably strong 4.7 percent gain as compared to the week ending October 11, largely due to the Columbus Day holiday. The year-over-year increase is slightly misleading, as the comparison week in October '07 did not contain Columbus Day. Additionally, sales for the month of October are down 0.9 percent compared to last year.

Frightened consumers have stopped spending

ShopperTrak RCT Corporation’s
Retail Traffic Index (SRTI) today reported that total U.S. foot traffic for the month of September fell a sharp 9.3 percent while the company’s National Retail Sales Estimate reported retail sales fell 1.0 percent for the same period – the first year-over-year sales decline since March 2003.
On a weekly level, ShopperTrak’s NRSE reported sales for the week ending October 11 fell a 2.7 percent as compared to last year, while weekly sales fell 0.6 percent versus the previous seven day period ending October 4.


U. S. consumer confidence suffered its steepest monthly drop on record in October, a survey showed Friday, as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression sent shocks waves through the economy.

Americans Stop Shoppin' - Retail Sales Slide

Now who thinks America is backwards and stuck on stupid? The focus is always on Americans shopping instead of Americans producing. Why doesn't our trade deficit or the shrinking middle class cause such an uproar?

The focus on Americans as simply consumers is part of the problem.

Bloomberg on Retail Sales:

Consumer purchases fell 1.2 percent in September, extending the decline to three straight months, the first time that's happened since comparable records began in 1992, Commerce Department figures showed today. In another sign of weakening demand, prices paid to U.S. producers fell last month on lower fuel costs

Here's a disconnect:

Retail shopper traffic down more than 10% in last month

Shoppertrak, a private retail tracking service, has reported that

the recent financial meltdown seen over the last few weeks is also dramatically impacting consumer traffic patterns. Highlights include:

In the month (August 3 – 30) containing the back-to-school shopping season, ShopperTrak’s Retail Traffic Index (SRTI) reported total U.S. shopper traffic to retail stores and malls fell 5.3 percent, the slowest since 2002.
Once the financial crisis emerged at the beginning of September, retail traffic declined even further. Between August 31 and September 20, SRTI total U.S. traffic fell an estimated 9.2 percent per day. (see charts below)
After the failure of Washington Mutual, President Bush’s address to the nation, the presidential debate and the initial rejection of the TARP bailout, traffic fell by an average of 10.5 percent (September 21 – 29).